Shoving all my normal ramblings aside for a moment, today we’re going to talk about a serious topic related to the wonderful world of writing, which you have most certainly encountered either as a reader or a writer, and if you can honestly prove you’ve never encountered it then congratulations on your Photoshop degree.
Loss. It’s something most people deal with on a regular basis, so I don’t mean the sort of loss associated with losing your favourite pen or pondering if your brother is actually borrowing the bag of cookies you brought home, or if you should hold a memorial. As mentioned above, I’ve suffered loss. My fellow FWFW writers have. It’s a normal part of human life, but just how much importance does it carry for a writer?
People die. Your characters may die. People your characters know have died. If you manage to write an award-winning drama novel or series without a single character death then I suggest hiding away, because scientists will want to analyse your blood. Character death is one of the best ways of both getting the reader’s attention and propping up the rest of the novel. Heck, there have been entire genres devoted to the subject: see murder mysteries for the best example. Okay, I’m stating the obvious here.
What I’m actually going to talk about is when it’s appropriate to kill a character – unless it’s a comedy and therefore appropriate, make sure it has a deep impact on the story. One thing I’ve noticed a lot when reading scenes regarding character death or recollection of a character that has died is that you can almost literally lick the page and taste the angst. I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t relate to their own experiences – if you know someone that has died, you can feed on your own emotional memories for greater effect and realism. You just need to recognise when to stop. I’m currently performing in a murder mystery at a drama group, in which I have to monologue about my character’s deceased brother. Changing the subject within the subject keeps the reader/audience interested: it’s one thing to rant on about how he loved physical exercise, but if you only go into detail about that then the reader will begin to wonder if this has any significance within the story. Maybe your character murdered someone with a dumbell or manifests latent superpowers after working out – but normally you’ll want to shift to another aspect, such as other actitives they enjoyed.
Most of all, remember that loss hurts. It may sound like I’m stating the obvious but you really have to delve deep into your character’s heart and soul and think about how they honestly feel. Are they immobilised by grief? Filled with rage? You decide.
I hope that you take something away from this post. Remember to listen to your characters.